Branch Out makes hard cider from community apples

Josephine Bush

Aaron Fodge, partner of Branch Out Cider, shows off the wood work while at the Winter Farmer's Market on Saturday at the Opera Galleria. This season's batch of hard cider will be served at Scrumpy's restaurant in downtown Fort Collins. (Photo Credit: Christina Vessa)
Aaron Fodge, partner of Branch Out Cider, shows off the wood work while at the Winter Farmer’s Market Saturday at the Opera Galleria. This season’s batch of hard cider will be served at Scrumpy’s restaurant in downtown Fort Collins. (Photo Credit: Christina Vessa)

From tree to bottle, Branch Out Cider collects the leftover apples from local backyard trees in Fort Collins, Loveland and Wellington and creates dry sparkling cider that can be paired this holiday season with turkey, shared at parties or given as gifts.

“I love giving the apple cider as gifts, because I can say some of my apples are in this,” said Laurie Fonken, a counselor at Colorado State University.

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Fonken has been donating her apples for the past three consecutive years, since Branch Out made their foothold in the Fort Collins community.

“I have three beautiful trees, and I love knowing that my apples aren’t being wasted, but rather going to the community,” Fonken said.

According to Fonken, working with owners Aaron Fodge and Matt Fater is an incredible experience, because they are environmentally conscious and want to develop relationships with all of their donors.

“We have an orchard of neighbors,” Fodge said. “Instead of owning an orchard, I own relationships … We go to meet the homeowner, thank them for their contribution and bring something that was rotting to value, because they couldn’t use all their apples.”

Partners Fodge and Fater live next to each other in Old Town, and over the years both had pressed apples into dry sparkling cider, which is served like wine

Over time, friends and neighbors alike asked to join in on the process, which is where the business plan was established. In 2012, the duo won $10,000 in the Bravo! and MCB Entrepreneurial Challenge to put toward their business.

The first year they had about 50 neighbors who donated their apples to Branch Out, which worked out to about 160 cases, 12 bottles per case at 750 milliliters a bottle. This last year they pressed 1,500 gallons.

CSU senior Lucas Thompson, a soil and crop science major and organic agriculture minor who works with Branch Out, said the entire process is engaging, and he loves every step.

“It’s great to travel the city and meet new people all of the time,” Thompson said. “These apple tree owners just come out of the woodwork, and so you get to meet some very interesting folks and see some cool backyards.”

After the apples are collected, Branch Out diligently blends the apples in order to have a good ratio of sugar to acidity. The fermenting process follows the blend of apples and ultimately becomes the product sold in Fort Collins today.

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“We aren’t a sugary product … to call something cider it can have 50 and 50 apple juice … that’s not what we do,” Fodge said.

Branch Out seeks to create an organic product that is both environmentally friendly and encompasses the entire community. Fodge said he believes that this business plan can work in any neighborhood, and therefore is looking to extend into other Colorado communities such as Boulder and the Denver area.

“Now that we are done with the processing for the season, I have become a bit of a salesman as well,” Thompson said. “I love working for a start-up company like this because you must be able to wear a lot of hats. Picker, miller, washer, secretary, salesman – you name it. I never saw myself doing all of this, but when it’s for a company with a great story and strong values, it’s quite rewarding.”

Branch Out is hosting a Thanksgiving contest this season where Branch Out Cider drinkers can take a picture with the bottle, post it on Facebook to be entered to receive a prize.

Collegian Reporter Josephine Bush can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @JoBush620